Wow! On Writing by Stephen King is a nonfiction book you can’t put down. If you’re a writer, an aspiring writer, or teach writing On Writing is an essential read.
When my husband sees me engrossed in a Stephen King book, he gets worried. (Because I dream vivid nightmares about things that scare me, horror is a no no. When I read scary stuff, Kip prepares for a few nights of combat as I fight creepy things in my sleep.)
But this book isn’t a horror, it is a joy.
For the first section of the book, Stephen King does a great job of making himself his own character. He shares his raw quirks as well as insights into why he became… well, Stephen King. As a kid, he aspires to be a writer. His stories of getting in trouble in high school make me think twice about how I see my students. Everyone has their story about “that” teacher and King has a few teachers emblazoned in his mind (not for good reasons.)
I love when he gets into the craft of writing – from what makes a good book to grammar. Who makes a distaste for adverbs so vivid but the master of horror? When you DO action -adverbs are a waste of words. I now slash adverbs like one of King’s demented characters.
He also explains why active voice is so important in writing. (FINALLY I understand!) This book is encouraging to writers. I like King’s admission to authoring a bad book. (People who never write anything bad don’t write.)
But the epic part of this book is his description of his 1999 accident. ( He admits being hit “by a character from one of my novels”). King goes on to show how writing helps him get his life back.
In many ways, like Jesus making the good wine at the end of the wedding feast, King’s last few chapters are the best. I found myself reading and rereading the end and wanting more. At this point, this book abruptly turns from the craft of writing to finding purpose in life.
I recommend King’s aptly titled “On Writing” as one of the best books you can read on writing.
Writers and lit teachers should pick up this book for page turning nonfiction. On Writing is a must read if you’re doing or teaching any writing.
A K12 Student Note: Be warned, King is explicit about his drug and alcohol use. (Also how he overcame and is better for it.) He also doesn’t mind using profanity a bit. As one who doesn’t care for profanity in books, his explanation of why he uses profanity makes sense. For this reason, I’d have this book but read aloud sections as you promote writing with K12 students. The section on adverbs and passive voice are fantastic explanations any writing teacher can use. This is definitely a book for college students and adults.